Monday, October 8, 2007

Whither Hot Sauce?

I put hot sauce on everything -- hamburgers, eggs, soups, everything. This does not bode well for my palate:

Why is hot so hot? The conventional explanation is that the nation has an increasingly adventurous palate. Immigration and prosperity have made Americans more sophisticated eaters, pushing wasabi peas into the mainstream, along with chili-Thai lime cashews, cayenne chocolate bars, and other high-octane combinations.

But some food scientists and market researchers think there is a more surprising reason for the broad nationwide shift toward bolder flavors: The baby boomers, that huge, youth-chasing, all-important demographic, are getting old. As they age, they are losing their ability to taste - and turning to spicier, higher-flavor foods to overcome their dulled senses.

Chiefly because of degenerating olfactory nerves, most aging people experience a diminished sense of taste, whether they realize it or not. But unlike previous generations, the nation's 80 million boomers have broad appetites, a full set of teeth, and the spending power to shape the entire food market.

"There's no question that as the baby boomers are aging they're losing their taste buds, and as a result they're drawn not only to more spicy foods, but to more flavorful foods of all kinds," said Phil Lempert, a food market analyst who runs, which tracks consumer trends in supermarkets and restaurants.

[via A&LD]

MORE: Tyler Cowen throws in his two cents:

I'd be surprised if that explained more than five percent of what is going on. Younger people are also preferring spicier food. Western Europe has an older population, but I don't see them (UK aside) falling for spicy food at a comparable rate as are Americans. Nor does Naples, Florida have much spicy food outside of its Haitian community. Instead America has more immigrants, and more restaurants run by immigrants. Spicy foods are addictive. Most importantly, spicy ethnic food is often better than what we had before, which indeed was usually horrible. Sometimes the best explanation is the simplest one.

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